Conversation on a Bench

Linda Burton posting from Sacramento, California – “It was on my Bucket List,” Jo-Ellen answered to my question. “That’s why I’m here today. There were things to do at home but then I told myself ‘This stuff will still be here tomorrow. The Promenade is now.’ So here I am.” I nodded, completely understanding what she meant.

The straw-hat match was the first thing that connected us, women all around were dressed in period style; long hoop skirts, gloves made of lace, bonnets decked with flowers; in our street attire we were a little out of place. I saw her sitting on a bench, and pointed to her hat, then mine. “My other hat’s a bonnet,” I laughed. “Mine too,” she said, and we began to chat.

We talked almost an hour, sitting in the sun, while all around us it was 1867. We were in Old Sacramento, surrounded by the Easter Bonnet Promenade. Men passed by with a distinguished air, sporting frock coats and watch-fobbed vests; women twirled their dainty parasols, little girls wore floral-printed dresses covering drawstringed cotton underdrawers; authentic reproductions drawn up from the past; docents living history; an annual event sponsored by the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation.

We had much in common, my new friend and I; we’d raised three children on our own, lived north and south, had a Bucket List. “You have to plan for it,” Jo-Ellen said, “you have to make it happen, otherwise, the time is lost.” We talked about our dreams, a ranch in Mexico, a castle in the hills, a carriage ride in Central Park, Fiji and Antarctica. We talked of holding children close in heart, our own, and theirs, and children everywhere; by example proving you can set your course and follow it.

I guess we’d be there talking still, but the sun was hot, and there were sights to see, more surprises to be found. “Good luck with your travels,” I said, giving her a farewell hug. “Good luck to you with yours,” she answered back. “I hope you make it everywhere you want to go.”

Two hours of wandering cobbled streets, time warped between the boardwalk days of then and now; strollers packed with little ones and shopping bags; kids hypered up on lollipops; couples hand by hand; music in the park. I lunched deckside over river’s edge, a pigeon watching every move, waiting for a crumb to drop. Then it was time to go.

“Is that your capital cities car?” the garage attendant called as I stepped into cooling shadows where I’d parked.

I affirmed it was, asked him what he thought. “I’ve been standing at the back of it, looking at the cities on the map, thinking where I’ve been and where I want to go,” he answered. “A person needs to get out in the world, you know?”

I know.